Home Latest News Nawaz Sharif Slams Curbs on Free Speech in Pakistan

Nawaz Sharif Slams Curbs on Free Speech in Pakistan

by Newsweek Pakistan

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Former prime minister reiterates allegations of rigging in 2018 general elections in address to PMLN’s Social Media Convention

Undemocratic forces have placed curbs on freedom of speech in Pakistan as part of their efforts to silence him, former prime minister Nawaz Sharif said on Sunday.

Addressing the Pakistan Muslim League (Nawaz)’s Social Media Convention via video-link, he said that the same “undemocratic forces” have “choked the poor and unemployed; have crushed them with inflation … these painful issues are being ignored as they worry over how to stop Nawaz Sharif.”

Noting that his speeches had been banned on TV, the PMLN supremo said that the world had changed, and it was no longer possible to fully suppress anyone’s voice. “Social media, despite recently approved rules, is free to quite an extent,” he said, referring to new rules that seek to place fresh curbs on social media. “It is not possible for them to hide their lies any longer, or to suppress the voice of the common man,” he added.

“Undemocratic forces have started propaganda through social media that Nawaz Sharif’s narrative is empowering enemies of the country,” he said, as he questioned whether he had said anything false in his previous addresses to Pakistan Democratic Movement rallies. “Is it treason to expose those who have formed a state above the state?” he said, referring to the government’s criticism of his speeches accusing the military’s leadership of interfering in the political process. “Ask yourself, why did this happen to my country?” he said.

The votes of the public had been “stolen” in 2018, said Sharif, adding, “hand on your heart, is this Quaid-e-Azam’s Pakistan?”

Lamenting that no elected prime minister had been able to complete their term of office in Pakistan, he said this was not the Pakistan that poet Allama Muhammad Iqbal had dreamt of. “Until now, none of the [elected] prime ministers have been allowed to complete their constitutional term. Every few years, democracy is attacked and martial law is imposed,” he said. “Again and again, the constitution was violated … those who created the country were termed traitors, popular leaders were jailed and leaders were made out to be robbers,” he added.

The prime minister hit out at inflation, questioning how the common man could afford to pay all his bills under current conditions. He also thanked the participants of the social media convention for their unwavering support. “From 2017 till now, in the country’s most difficult times, the way you have courageously worked, battled the Army that was created in the name of fifth generation war, and the difficulties you have endured for the rule of law—all of it is a golden chapter of our struggle,” he said.

Big decisions coming

Addressing the gathering, PMLN Vice President Maryam Nawaz announced that the PDM was set to make big decisions on Dec. 8 [at a PDM meeting in Lahore], adding that it was a “do or die situation.”

Maryam reiterated her call to lawmakers to prepare for resigning from Parliament if the situation called for it. “Do not fall under any pressure,” she said, warning that anyone who does so would have to deal with the public’s wrath.

Referring to the government’s threats to arrest anyone who violates COVID-19 standard operating procedures (SOPs), Maryam urged party workers to embrace these detentions. She said this showed the government’s fear.

“The people of Pakistan have already won this war,” she claimed. “Victory only remains to be declared in the rally on the 13th,” she added, referring to the PDM’s planned rally at Lahore’s Minar-e-Pakistan this Sunday.

Prime Minister Imran Khan has claimed that the opposition would not be barred from holding the rally, but would not be granted official permission and cases would be registered against any organizers for violating coronavirus SOPs.

Slamming Khan for once claiming that the “green passport would be respected globally after he came into power,” she jeered that flights from Pakistan had been banned due to the policies of the incumbent government.

“Can anyone ask what became of the tall claims he used to make?” she asked. She said the PTI government had brought Pakistan’s GDP to negative growth, resulting in mass layoffs. She said medicines had become prohibitively expensive, while people couldn’t even afford wheat, sugar. “There is still no legal action because he is viewed as taabedaar (servile),” she said, adding this should be his new name: “Taabedaar Khan.”

Maryam also thanked the PMLN’s social media teams, praising their dedication and hard work.

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